Snow fell last night. I woke to blades of grass peeking through their white frosting and part of me was sad. I know what’s ahead. I’ve had twenty four winters past. It’s cold and slushy and wet. But I let my pups outside and I grabbed an ice scraper and I cleaned off my car and the BF’s car. I came back in, icy cold, and put my bear hat on to start the day.
My bear hat was a gift from the BF last year, and it reminds me to be silly and happy even when it’s dark and grey outside. It’s amazing to me, as I wander my institution’s hallways, how little people perceive around me. I always smile when I see a goofy hat, but I’m apparently in the minority.
Regardless, I wanted to speak a bit about where I’ve come from and where I’m going. We’re close enough to Samhain for this to count as a “new year reflection” but really, I’ve just been contemplative with the changing season.
I started this blog in 2007 or 2008 as a way to catalogue my reflections about my chosen path, Wicca. Somehow, along the way, it attracted quite a few page views! I’ve tried to promote other projects here and there, but for some reason, this is just the one that works. I have a community here, albeit an often silent one, and I appreciate it.
During that time period, and up until 2 years ago, yesterday (2011), I was in a relationship with a man who was also my high priest, Danny. I met him when I was 15 and he was 27. I had been sexually assaulted twice at 14, by the same person, and my ex was the first person I told. I don’t know why I trusted a man who lived 1200 miles away in Florida, but I felt like he saw me as an adult and treated me like one, too.
I don’t know when he first cheated on me, but I know it happened. We began “internet dating” that year (2003) and I stayed with him throughout high school. Although much of it was “clean” conversation, there were sometimes when one of us would take it too far and cross one of those legal boundaries. It was often me, but he never resisted those and would accept any pictures, etc, that I wanted to share. I was incredibly eager to please him and I couldn’t wait to meet him for real.
We did not meet in person until I was 18. He took my virginity. Around that time, he began to change. His disappearances became longer (times when he would “lose his phone” or “be in the hospital” or what have you), and occasionally, I received phone calls from “crazy bitches” who claimed that I was the other woman, or that he had told them that I was a “harmless lesbian friend” that he was going to visit.
I believed his excuses every time. I believed that they wanted to get revenge on him for some wrong they believed he had done to them. I believed that a woman was having a nervous breakdown and had a delusion about him being hers. I really, truly did. I clung to my hope so strongly that when the end finally came, I was crushed.
That last year was the hardest. In January, I had traveled those 800 miles (I moved farther south) to visit him. I was in a hotel because he wasn’t sure how much he’d be able to see me, and staying with him was out of the question. A relationship for eight years, and he never let me see where he lived. I was young, and didn’t know any better. Didn’t know that relationships could be better, even long distance ones.
I saw him for a total of two hours. We said our hellos. We had sex. He took a phone call and told me he had to go to work. And I never saw him again. I spent the rest of my days there holed up with intense anxiety and migraine because I was SO angry. And SO sad that he had made those choices. Wasn’t I worth anything to him?
I almost had the strength to end it (for me) then. But he somehow convinced me that staying was better, and for the last time, I believed him. Three months later, my aunt passed away of complications in her bowel and he was, remarkably, sort of there for me. Over the phone, anyway. In August, a close family friend died and his “It’ll be okay” speech was the last solid contact we had. We spoke twice in September and once in October. Each time, he told me that he would call again soon. His phone number changed.
In November, I had enough. I contemplated flying down to FL and trying to find him, but I chose not to. I wrote him a letter and sent it on 11/11/11. I had my first date that day. I spent 4 months dating before settling on one guy, my current BF, who is for the most part, imperfect but amazing.
Somewhere in there, I found out that my ex had gotten married. Ironically, on that same day. 11/11/11. Her name is Kim.
2 years out, I’m happy more often than not. I have a great BF and a great pet family (3 dogs, 2 cats, a bearded dragon). I found a steady center after my two family deaths and I’ve really come to understand the world around me. My motto has changed from “Everything is going to be alright.” to “Life is short. Have fun.”
Struggling with your own mortality and searching for happiness is something that you can’t do until your 20s. And perhaps you’ll continue to do it for the rest of your life. But bad experiences (and good!) shape you strongly in your teens and you start to learn those hard life lessons in your 20s.
Arguably my hardest struggle has been with anxiety. My ex spent 8 years yelling at me when we communicated on a regular basis. He used “gaslighting” techniques to confuse and dissuade me from finding the truth. Often, that meant that he would accuse me of cheating, or of not making time for him. Ironic.
The fall out from this means that I can’t handle confrontation well. My BF does not yell at me. We don’t argue. But occasionally, he will yell angrily at video games. Although it doesn’t make me outright cry (anymore), it does heighten my anxiety. Even though he’s clearly not angry at or yelling at me. He does it less often now, too, which helps — only when he’s playing a new game and gets frustrated.
The only other occasion this comes up is when I misread signals or if he is grumpy. I was so used to walking on eggshells that it takes one harsh tone from my BF, even if he’s just JOKING, to put me close to the edge. He knows it happens, he tries his best to NOT to it, but sometimes either he forgets or I’m already anxious and something pushes me over. It happened a few days ago, which is why it’s weighing on my mind.
I dissolve into a teary mess. And then, while teary, flashbacks happen. My little mind starts screaming “no, no, no!” and I’m thrown right back into the desperation I used to feel when my ex was raging. And on my way out of the dark hole, I get angry and sad. Angry at my ex for doing those things to me. Angry at myself for letting them happen. Sad because they happened. Sad because I have still not yet mastered this part of my damaged self.
I know the way out of this hole. Think positive. Take it a day at a time. And I do those things, and they work. The outbursts are fewer. I get a better handle on them most days. I need to learn to speak up BEFORE I cross that non-verbal anxiety border that makes me actively avoid my BF and then burst into tears.
I have regrets. I think we all do. Although I don’t regret ALL of the 8 years with my ex, I regret a good majority of them. I even have regrets about my dating life and choices. I had never been single before. I made some bad choices. Not the WORST choices. But not great ones.
But I look ahead, and I am happy. Assuming that I can find a job after this one ends, I’ll be guaranteed at least 2 more years of job security. And if not, perhaps I’ll go my own way and start a business. I’m honestly excited for the rest of my life to happen. And who knows? Without my ex, I wouldn’t have met this great guy.
I just wish that my ex hadn’t been such a lying, cheating, manipulative psycho-sociopath. I wish that we would’ve had an 8 year relationship that ended for some other reason. An 8 year relationship not marred by emotional abuse. I might’ve still ended up where I am. Might’ve still found my current BF.
I wish it wasn’t so personal. I wish that Kim, my ex’s new source of nutrition and money and shelter, didn’t have children. The children make it messy. If there were no children, I would’ve gone to the police with the breaches of law immediately. I would’ve withstood the looks from my family (who didn’t know), my friends (who did), and my co-workers (who wouldn’t understand). The media coverage, perhaps. It certainly has the makings of a sensational case. I would’ve done it to ensure that no one else had to deal with him. That he didn’t target other teenagers for his sick mind game.
On the bright side, I am now two years psychopath free. I’m a functioning adult, I’ll have my Ph.D. in the next year, and despite my anxiety, I get to live my life free from the emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by my ex.
Does my story resonate with one of yours? Have you had a psychopath in your life? Do you have one now? I ask, because I want to make sure that you get the help you need. I recently read a great book about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists and what to do when you’re in a relationship with them. It’s called “When Love Is A Lie” by Zari Ballard, and is available on Amazon. I contacted the author and she’s a really great person. If you need help, please consider reading this book. Seriously.